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Associated Press, Published August 08 2011

South Dakota Old West re-enactor says he’s no outlaw

RAPID CITY, S.D. – A man charged in the shooting of three tourists in South Dakota during an Old West gun battle re-enactment says he’s “not an outlaw.”

Paul Doering, 49, of Summerset, is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm because of his previous criminal record, which includes prison time in Minnesota for assault, burglary and escape. Doering told the Rapid City Journal that he long ago left his troubled past behind and has since devoted time to helping others.

“Just because I’m a felon and have made mistakes when I was younger ­doesn’t make me a terrible person. I’m not an outlaw,” said Doering, who now works as a truck driver.

The tourists were hit during a re-enactment staged by the Dakota Wild Bunch in Hill City. They use blanks in their guns, but authorities say live ammunition was fired in the June 17 mock gun battle.

Doering, who had performed two previous times with the re-enactors, said he borrowed guns that he thought were loaded with blanks and that he was shocked and terrified when he realized live rounds had been fired.

“I heard screaming and looked around and saw blood near where my daughter and girlfriend were standing,” he said. “I went into panic mode.”

The bullets shattered a leg bone of Carrol Knutson, 65, of Birchwood, Minn.; hit the forearm and elbow of John Ellis, 48, of South Connellsville, Pa.; and caused minor injuries to Jose Pruneda, 53, of Alliance, Neb.

Doering said he turned himself in to authorities, and his girlfriend provided a video of the shootout.

“The only way I can deal with it is to think positive. I believe everything happens for a reason, but I haven’t figured out God’s reason for this one,” said Doering, who faces as much as 10 years in federal prison if convicted of the charge. His past felonies could increase the term to life.

Doering is scheduled to enter a plea Thursday in federal court in Rapid City.

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